How can I boost student participation in Verbal RoundTables?

How to improve student engagement in the Verbal Roundtable
Written by Anna Lisa
Updated 2 months ago

You have now run your first Verbal RoundTable and your students were a little quieter than you had hoped.

Consider these suggestions to improve student engagement in your next Verbal RoundTable:

Keep it Low Stakes

When your students are responding, it will be much easier for them to speak up for the first time if the question is fun and easy.

For example: What is your favorite season? Who was your favorite character in this section of the book?

  1. Have every student tap in with a New Idea.

  2. Start adding students to the queue 1 by 1 in any order you choose.

  3. When each student is the speaker, they will share their answer and then tap out to allow the next student in the queue to participate.

Scaffold Your Guiding Questions

Slowly increasing the complexity of the questions can offer a more guided approach. As a teacher you can hide questions and make only one or two visible at a time to allow students to focus on one question prior to moving on.

For example:

  1. What are some ways you can practice gratitude in your life?
  2. How might the conflict in this story have been resolved?
  3. Which emotions can you identify as a motivating factor? Explain your reasoning.

For Extra Quiet Students...

Ask them to jot down their thinking on their notepad (only the teacher can see this!)

For example: If you notice a great idea on their notepad, you can read it out loud for the class or nudge them to tap in to share it! You can also use this to inform your assessment. 

Set Expectations and Goals

Co-create class goals with the students before the discussion begins. This will encourage a sense of ownership over how the discussion unfolds.

Some examples include:

  1. Our goal participation rate is 70%.
  2. Our goal is for everyone to tap in at least two times with either a new idea, build on, challenge or question.
  3. Our goal is to make eye contact with who is speaking, try to avoid getting distracted.

Set goals for students to encourage their peers at least __ times by:

  1. Rewarding each other using the high five button.
  2. Clicking on the ear icon underneath their names to encourage each other to speak.

Pause and Reflect

Remind students of the criteria and give them a minute or two for a mental self-assessment. It sounds obvious, but sometimes they need a reminder during the discussion!

Click the stop button to pause the discussion. You can start it again and the new tap-ins will add to the previous participation data.

  1. How much talking time are you taking up so far?
  2. Should your goal be to speak up more, or encourage others to speak up more?
  3. Has there been anything discussed that you are still curious about?

How Teachers Can Model Synergetic Discussions

Synergetic discussions require a team effort or collaboration on a balanced scale.

As a teacher, you can:

  1. Start off the discussion with your own ideas as a model for students to reference. Demonstrate for students what speaking up might sound like.

  2. Draw attention to examples of a student demonstrating critical thinking.

  3. Draw attention to the quality of respectful discussion occurring on the individual level and on the class level as a whole.

Take 5 Minutes to Review the Data Summary and Reflection Questions

Draw attention to the Summary section and use the following prompts: 

  1. What do these graphs tell us about the discussion?
  2. How balanced was the conversation?
  3. =Did we meet our class goals?
  4. What grade would the class get on this discussion?
  5. What norms should we put in place for the next discussion?

Finally, remember that the skills for class discussions take time, and while your first discussion may not be "perfect," over time your students will build these important skills individually and as a class.


Continue exploring the Verbal RoundTable by clicking the links below: 

- How to Assess the Verbal RoundTable

- Assessment: Best Practices 

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